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Common Reading 2021: The Heart of the Hopi by Aaron Levin

The Heart of the Hopi — Aaron Levin

Aaron Levin describes the importance of corn for the Hopi nation, located in Arizona. As expected, growing corn in Arizona takes patience, practice, and ingenuity. The Hopi have been growing corn in this region for 2,000 years, and thus have perfected the technique of “dry-farming.”  Their vast understanding of the environment around them leads the Hopi to plant their corn deeper, allowing the ground water to sustain their crops and in varied locations, ensuring that they never lose all their crops in one season. The Hopi have adapted their farming practices to fit their environment instead of changing the land to fit their farming.

Author Bio

Aaron Levin is a freelance journalist based in Baltimore, Maryland. His work has been featured in Johns Hopkins Magazine, Archaeology, Cooking Light, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, among others.

Discussion Questions

1. The Hopi tribe chooses not to change the environment around them and instead adapts their farming practices to fit their climate. Think of a time in which you were unable to change your circumstances. How did you adapt yourself and your actions within your environment? 

2. Considering the rapidly changing global climate, how can we adapt our farming practices (or any consumer based industries) to be more sustainable? 

Class Activity

Visit the Susquehannock Tribute Circle located between Aikens Hall and Reed Hall. Take some time to reflect on the history of colonization and how it continues to impact the lives and cultures of Native Americans across the country. 

Introduction — Cheynne Keams

Susquehanna University’s campus lies on the unsurrendered territory of the Susquehannock tribe (the Sas-k-we-an-og), known as the river people because they lived in harmony and balance with the river and land. Histories of Indigenous peoples have been excluded from our collective knowledge about their existence in what is now the United States. Yet, despite past and present colonial attacks, Indigenous communities continue to preserve and thrive in their lifeways for generations to come.

Although our institution is geographically located in the Susquehannock area, Aaron Levin’s “The Heart of the Hopi” transports us to the desert mesas of Northeastern Arizona. In this article, Levin accounts for the traditional practices of corn in the Hopi nation, encompassing both every day and ceremonial purposes. He describes the hardships they face planting in a harsh environment which presents its own set of challenges calling for ingenuity, determination, and most of all adaptability. As you read, I encourage you to think about the traditional planting practices of the Hopi and how they inform and inspire us to prepare, plan, and adapt to unforeseen circumstances ahead. When faced with adversity will you bend, or will you break?

Interactive Map

Check out an interactive map detailing Indigenous lands in North America here.

Additional Resources

The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation located in northeastern Arizona. The reservation occupies part of Coconino and Navajo counties, encompasses more than 1.5 million acres, and is made up of 12 villages on three mesas.

Since time immemorial the Hopi people have lived in Hopitutskwa and have maintained our sacred covenant with Maasaw, the ancient caretaker of the earth, to live as peaceful and humble farmers respectful of the land and its resources. Over the centuries we have survived as a tribe, and to this day have managed to retain our culture, language and religion despite influences from the outside world.

Learn more about the Hopi here.


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